Sexual Exploitation Lawyers Toronto

How to defend sexual exploitation charges

With consent, it is not illegal in Canada to have a sexual relationship with someone older than sixteen years of age, regardless of the age difference between the two parties.

An exception to this rule occurs when the sexual relationship exists between someone holding a position of trust or authority over another who is older than sixteen but younger than eighteen years of age. In such circumstances, this type of relationship may trigger the criminal charge of sexual exploitation.

The following article attempts to outline the circumstances under which a person cannot engage in sexual relations with a person who is between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years old. To learn more about defending other types of sexual offences, click here

Frequently asked questions about sexual exploitation

What is sexual exploitation?

The offence of sexual exploitation is set out in s. 153 of the Criminal Code of Canada and is engaged when a person in a position of trust or authority towards a young person or is a person with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency

  • touches (directly or indirectly) any part of the body of the young person for a sexual purpose; or
  • invites, counsels or incites a young person to touch anyone for a sexual purpose.

How is a “young person” defined?

A young person includes anyone who is over sixteen years of age but under the age of eighteen years.

What must the Crown Attorney prove in an allegation of sexual exploitation?

The Crown must prove a “relationship of dependency” between the accused and the young person or that the accused person was in a “position of trust or authority” with respect to the young person. The Crown must also prove a “touching” for a “sexual purpose.

How is a “position of trust” defined?

A position of trust will be determined by giving consideration to a number of factors including (but not limited to):

  • The position an accused person holds in relation to the young person. Does the relationship between them creates an obligation or responsibility?;
  • Whether a duty of care is imposed on the accused in relation to the young person;
  • Whether the relationship is accompanied by an authority by the dominant person over the young person;
  • The positions of both the accused and the complainant in whatever relationship they may have;
  • the evolution of the relationship;
  • the degree of control or influence by the person over the young person;
  • the age of the young person;
  • the age difference between the accused and the young person;

What is important is the nature of their relationship. A position of trust creates an opportunity for an individual to persuade or influence a young person.

Must the Crown Attorney also prove that the accused person in a position of trust exploited the young person?

There exists some legal authority to suggest that the accused person must appreciate that they are in a position of trust or authority and must consciously use that position to obtain the sexual participation of the young person. There must be some indication that there was oppressive or exploiting conduct which, in context, demonstrates an abuse of the position.

How is “touching” defined?

If the accused person intends to have sexual interaction of any kind with a young person, and with that intention makes contact with the young person’s body, they have “touched” the complainant for the purposes of a sexual exploitation charge. Touching involves physical contact with any part of a person’s body. The contact may be direct, for example, touching a person with a hand or other part of the body, or indirect, for example, touching a person with an object. Applying force to the complainant not required. Nor does it matter whether the young person agreed to the touching. The touching must be intentional, as opposed to accidental.

How is “sexual purpose” defined?

The touching had a sexual purpose if it was done for the accused person’s sexual gratification or for the purpose of violating the young person’s sexual integrity, including any act meant to degrade or demean the young person in a sexual way.

Can an accused be guilty of sexual exploitation if they didn’t know the young person was under eighteen years of age?

It is not a defence that the accused believed that the complainant was eighteen years of age or older at the time the offence is alleged to have been committed unless the accused took all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the complainant and honestly believed the person they were touching was at least eighteen years old.

Sentencing for sexual exploitation charges

Anyone convicted of sexual exploitation will be placed on the sexual offender registry (SOIRA) for a period of at least ten years and potentially. Where the Crown prosecutes the charge by indictment, the minimum period of time on the registry is twenty years. In some cases, a person convicted of sexual exploitation can be placed on the sexual offender registry for life.

Whether the Crown Attorney proceeds summarily or by indictment will also dictate the mandatory minimum punishment and maximum punishments for the offence.

Where the Crown Attorney proceeds summarily, the mandatory minimum punishment for sexual exploitation is 90 in jail up to a maximum of two years in jail. Where the Crown Attorney proceeds by indictment, the minimum punishment is one year in jail up to a maximum punishment of fourteen years in jail.

Since a sexual exploitation allegations can cover a wide range of behaviour – from touching someone over their clothing to full intercourse – each case must be considered individually to assess the appropriate outcome.

When a judge is deciding on a sentence for sexual exploitation, they will consider many factors, such as the offender’s criminal record and personal circumstances, and the circumstances of the case. Each case is unique.

There are also other indirect consequences of a conviction for sexual exploitation. For example, a person who is not a Canadian citizen could in some cases face deportation, or difficulty getting citizenship after a conviction. Having a criminal record with a sexual exploitation conviction can severely limit someone’s options for work, or in some cases prevent them from continuing their career at all. A criminal record for sexual exploitation can also make it difficult to travel outside of Canada, and some countries will deny entry to someone with a serious criminal record.

If you, or someone you know if facing a sexual exploitation charge, you should immediately contact a lawyer from our office to discuss the best way to successfully defend against the allegations. For a consultation, our legal team can be reached immediately at (416) 297-7200.